This has been splashed around in print and on the news all this week. I got around to reading it today, following a link from iMule's blog.
Makes one think (among many things) about the implications of population control. Is it really as bad as they say it is? Is having the second largest population in the world such a dubious distinction after all?
Japan and Europe are gradually becoming older, thanks to decades of falling birth-rates (mostly offshoots of economic prosperity and personal sexual independence). Productivity is falling (the report claims that this may allow India to match the GDP of some of the large European countries as soon as 2020!), but the fiscal burden of supporting an ageing population (health-care, social security) is coming back to haunt them.
On the contrary India and China are poised to launch into a sustained growth spurt on the coat-tails of a youthful, energetic population that is just waiting to be harnessed by market forces. This may take some time in coming to see radical shifts (if you feel the decade from 1995 was not radical enough :)) in the look and feel of our country. The report has a projection for Chinese and Indian GDP growth rates as percentages of US GDP for the next half-century or so -- the knee of the curve is somewhere in 2010, (A good time for me to be a grizzly ageing wolf, raising a pack of cubs ;)) so presumably that's when India will see the kind of growth spurt South-East Asia saw in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Super Highways will start getting built, cities will start getting monstrous new skylines (Cranes, Cranes, Cranes everywhere -- the Bangkok of 1992 of my memories) and fancy transport systems.
Coming back to the issue of population control, I have long felt that it is a moot point. Reources are scarce, and must be managed. Fair enough. But the truth is that they are taken by the strong and the weak die out for want of them. This is ground reality, and the world scarcely bats an eyelid as it perpetuates it. So why bother? The rest of the world is dying out (not for want of resources, but out of renunciation ;)) -- we (as Indians and Chinese) are in a position to seamlessly fill their shoes, taking the reins of the technologies they built up on the rising and ebbing tides of European and American rivalries and ambitions.
Have as many children as you like, really...Enough so that you can give them the essentials for their personal survival in this new age -- good education, nutrition, enlightened company and a good social network that makes the fulfillment of their aspirations more of a thing of collective concensus than something to really struggle for ;). If you can't do that or won't do that and that's your excuse for having a single child, get some ambition, god-dammit -- stoke that fire in your belly :).
A far more important issue for India to tackle in the coming years would be the seriously worrying disparity in the child-sex ratio across the country.
But I wonder if there's a study out there that compares historical shifts in global population growth rates (with migration factored in) with economic prosperity?